8 Questions You Keep Asking Me About Teaching ESL Overseas

March 10, 2013


Ever since I started my advice column thingie a few weeks ago, I’ve been getting lots of questions about teaching English overseas.

Because, apparently, you spend ten years of your life doing something and you get a degree in the stuff and people actually expect you to know what you’re doing.


People and their unrealistic expectations.


Does this look like the face of a girl who knows what she's doing? EVER?

Does this look like the face of a girl who knows what she’s doing? EVER?

I don’t usually write much about teaching on my blog.

Because it’s my job. And I like to keep my work life and my private life separate. (And by “private life” I mean “totally-not-private-Internet-life.”)

Plus, honestly, it kind of freaks me out – giving advice that people might actually take seriously.

I’d much rather give advice about topics I don’t know anything about. Like unicorns and raising kids and traveling with annoying people.

And now that I just wrote that sentence, I’ve figured out the ultimate way to deal with annoying people while traveling: BRING UNICORNS.

They will totally cancel out the annoying people.

You’re welcome.


Where were we again?

Oh, yes, teaching English.

Usually when I get a question about teaching, I just point the person to this post I wrote about a year and a half ago about questions you should ask yourself before becoming an ESL teacher overseas.

But people still keep on asking me questions.

Because, apparently, you guys don’t like talking to yourselves much.

So because the people keep on asking, I’ve decided to give the people what they want.

Just as long as next week I can go back to talking about unicorns, okay?

8 Questions You Keep Asking Me About Teaching ESL Overseas Because, Apparently, You Guys Don’t Like Asking Yourselves Questions

1.    Do I need a degree?
Bad news (if you don’t already happen to have a degree):

Yes, most likely.

In fact, most jobs will require that you show proof of a four-year-degree before they will hire you.

This is usually due to visa restrictions as many countries, like Japan and South Korea, require that you have a degree before you can be granted a working visa.

Good news (if you happen to have a degree and it happens to be in Astrophysical International Communicationology):

It usually doesn’t matter what your degree is in – especially if you’re looking at jobs teaching at a private language school or a local K-12 school overseas.

Even better news (if you happened to have majored in English like I did):

This may be the only job where having an English degree will actually work in your favor.

I know, right?

It doesn’t even matter if you spent your four years in college pretending to read James Joyce novels and writing crappy poetry.

Not that I did that.

Okay, I totally did that.

There may have been a few toga parties, too. What?

2.    Do I need teaching experience?
Good news (if you don’t happen to have any teaching experience):

Probably not.

Of course, it will totally depend on the school or program you’re applying to and the country it is in.

My first job teaching English was at a high school in tiny fishing village in Japan with the JET Programme, a program that primarily recruits newly graduated university students.

My first teaching job.

My first teaching job. I’m the one who is not in a high school uniform.

Other than a brief stint as a TA in a college writing class, I didn’t have any teaching experience. I definitely didn’t have any experience with high school students. And I had absolutely no idea how to teach grammar or sentence structure. Because, frankly, I didn’t even know sentences had structure.

Of course, it will help if you do happen to have some teaching or training experience – even if it’s non-ESL related stuff.

Maybe you worked as a volunteer camp counselor?

Or helped train other waitresses at your summer restaurant job?

Or are just really good at being bossy?

Brag about it on your resume, yo.

Bad news:

There really is no bad news.

Geez, you guys, why do you always think there’s going to be bad news?

3.    What about that TEFL Certificate thingie? What is it? Do I need one of those? How do I get it? And what’s the best one to get?
I’m really not the best person to ask about TEFL certificates because I never got one.

I went straight from Teaching-Without-Any-Certification-Or-Training-Or-Idea-As-To-What-I-Was-Doing to Getting-My-Master’s-Degree-in-TESOL-And-Learning-To-Diagram-Sentences-Like-A-Boss.

Because my philosophy in life is “All or Nothing.”

This also happens to be my philosophy in nachos.



Of course, any kind of training is going to help you both find a job and be prepared to enter the classroom, but the problem is deciding which certification program to do.

There are, like, eleventy-billion-million different types of certificates and certification programs out there. There are programs that can be done completely online. Whereas other programs require a certain number of hours of in-class practice teaching. Some programs may even help you find a job after you finish the certification.

I’d suggest looking at some listings for jobs in the country that you’re interested in. (ESL Café is a good place to start.) That will give you a good idea as to what the general requirements for jobs in that country are.

Which brings me to the next question:

4.    Where should I go?

Must I decide EVERYTHING for you?

I mean, SHEEZ.

How about I ask you a question this time?

Where do you want to go?

Okay, you should totally go there.

Yep, that’s all there is to it.

5.    Should I line up a job before I go or just go there on a tourist visa and look for a job when I get there?
Not to get all government official on you, but it is technically illegal to look for a job or work while on a tourist visa.

Not that I haven’t met plenty of people who’ve done it.

But I, personally, would rather secure a job beforehand and get the appropriate visa before going overseas to teach. Because I’m a scaredy cat, and I don’t like to break the law, and I am pretty sure I wouldn’t last long in prison. (Although, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, prison would make for a totally awesome blog post.)

Arranging everything beforehand can mean a lot of hassle and paperwork and planning.

This can also mean committing yourself to a school in a less-than-glamorous location

Like, say, a tiny fishing village in Japan.


I lived here!

Or, say, the Brazilian Amazon.


And here! (Okay, I didn’t live ON the Amazon. But not too far from it.)

Or, umm, perhaps, a city of four million people in China that nobody’s ever heard of.

And I lived here!

And I lived here!

But it also means that you already have a place to stay and a place to work when you get there — and that place doesn’t happen to be a prison.

Win, win, you guys!

6.    How do I avoid being scammed?
I’m sure you’ve heard the horror stories.

I’ve certainly heard the horror stories.

You know, the ones of the innocent, naïve, ESL-teacher-wannabe who gets a job overseas and then shows up in her destination of choice only to find she’s been sold into a prostitution ring and her passport is taken away and then she wakes up in a bathtub of ice with her kidneys stolen and there’s a convict on the loose with a hook for a hand and, OMIGOD, THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE.

Despite having heard these stories over and over again, I have never actually met anyone who has been scammed – at least not seriously so.

This is not to say that scams don’t exist.

This is also not to say that you shouldn’t be really careful when applying for and accepting jobs.

Do your research.

Ask people you know who’ve taught ESL overseas what schools or programs they’d recommend.

Talk to the career counselors at your university or your college professors. (True story: The main reason why I applied to the JET Programme was because it was recommended to me by my sociology professor in college.)

Check out the online forums and see what people have to say about the schools or programs you’re applying to. But be warned – the online forums for teaching ESL are like all online forums everywhere on the Internet ever – basically, full of negative, hateful trolls who probably stomp on puppies in their spare time. But if one school in particular keeps on warranting the vitriol of the Internets, I’d stay away.

Ask the school or program you’re applying to if you can talk to any current or former teachers either via email or Skype. If they won’t let you talk to anybody, then I’d be concerned.

And trust your gut.

Basically, if a company feels totally sketchy, chances are they are totally sketchy.

The company I applied to work for in Brazil felt totally sketchy.

The Brazilian Embassy wasn’t even sure if they would give me a visa because they were all like, “This place seems totally sketchy.”

But I still went there.


Hanging out by the spitting fish fountain. Just a typical day in Brazil.

Hanging out by the spitting fish fountain. Just a typical day in Brazil.

Not surprisingly, when I got there, I discovered the place I worked for was totally sketchy. They were disorganized and gave me absolutely no support. They made me work more hours than the local teachers and paid me less. And they took away the only vacation I had to make me go substitute teach in the jungle for two weeks.

While I was happy I went, I still spent the better part of the year feeling frustrated and helpless.

Luckily, though, nothing horrible happened to me to me.

I didn’t get sold into prostitution or have my passport taken away.

And I was able to leave the country with both of my kidneys.

Or at least I think I still have both of my kidneys.

Is there some kind of test I can do to make sure I still have both of my kidneys, you guys?

7.    What if I don’t like it?
I left my first job teaching English in Japan after only a year, and I didn’t think I’d ever go back to teaching ESL again.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t liked the teaching.

I had actually really enjoyed the teaching.

But I didn’t do nearly as much teaching as I would have liked as my classes were often cancelled because they weren’t considered “important.”

Teaching my students the Hokey Pokey. TOTALLY IMPORTANT.

Teaching my students the Hokey Pokey. TOTALLY IMPORTANT.

So instead of teaching, I spent most of my time sitting at my desk, pretending to do work while I was actually ordering stuff off of Amazon and writing ranty emails to my friends.

It wasn’t until a couple years later, when I got a job teaching English part-time to adult students at a private language school in the States, that I really fell in love with teaching and started to consider teaching as a career and not-this-thing-to-do-for-a-year-so-I-can-get-a-visa-to-live-in-a-country-and-not-get-arrested.

Here’s the thing: teaching is like pretty much every experience in your life ever.

You’re never going to know if you like it until you try it.

And even if you try it once, you might not even be sure if you like it.

If you’re interested in teaching ESL and think you might like it, you might as well try it.

Because, seriously, what’s the worst that could happen?

Besides having your kidneys stolen.

Just kidding, you guys!

Your kidneys will totally not get stolen.


8.    How do I get a real job after teaching ESL?
This question irks me more than just a little bit.

Because, you guys, teaching English is a “real job.”

You use the exact same skills teaching English as you do with any job – teaching or non-teaching.

You have to be creative but practical.

You have to be able to plan ahead but be flexible.

You have to be able to be confident. But you also have to be able to be humble and take a lot of criticism.

You have to be able to talk to a variety of different people from a variety of different backgrounds. But you also have to be able to listen to people. And not roll your eyes too much when those people won’t shut up already.

And you have to wear pants.

Mind you, I didn’t always feel this way about teaching English.

During my first year of teaching English, I didn’t consider what I was doing a “real job”.

I spent a lot of time during that year in Japan thinking about the “real job” I would get when I returned to the States.

And when I returned to the States, I promptly got myself a real job – working in a non-profit in Washington, DC – doing lots of real jobby things.

Like, you know, sitting at my desk, pretending to do work while I was actually ordering stuff off of Amazon and writing ranty emails to my friends.

Okay, so I did actually do a lot of work.

But, here’s the thing, you guys, about jobs (and take this from a girl who has had a lot of jobs in her day):

A job is a job is a job.

You’re going to do some stuff that you really like – like work with some awesome people and do some creative things and maybe occasionally dance.


Teaching my students how to dance. Again.

And you’re going to do some stuff that you don’t like – like sit through really long staff meetings and wear pants.

And some days it’s going to be The Most Awesome Job Ever And You Want To Do It Forever And Ever Until You Die.

And some days it’s going to be The Worst Job Ever And You Want To Quit And Go Live on a Beach And Drink Mai-Tais For A Living And Never Wear Pants Again.

That’s all there really is to it.

Okay, can I go back to talking about unicorns now?

Have you ever taught ESL? Have any tips you’d like to share? Or are you thinking about teaching ESL? Have any questions you’d like to ask?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On March 10, 2013 at 5:36 pm Katie said:

    Love your blog and writing style! Those of us who are thinking about teaching ESL need to hear all of the answers to these questions over and over again, sorry!

    My current “real job” is teaching third grade in the states. I LOVE teaching but I LOVE traveling more. So I am leaving my job at the end of the year (ohmygodimcrazy!) and embarking on some sort of journey that has yet to be determined. The absolute most ideal life would be to travel around the world and stay in different locations for a few months and teach whilst in said locations. I am too antsy to park it in one place for a full year contract!

    I know that you always secure a job before you move there, do you have any connections (or websites of) the people you know who have traveled somewhere, fell in love with it and found a teaching job once there?

    • On March 10, 2013 at 9:20 pm Sally said:

      Hi, Katie, so glad you’re enjoying the blog!
      Honestly, you’re probably going to have some trouble finding a paying job that will let you work for just a few months here and there. Most places require you sign a year-long contract — especially if they’re helping you secure a work visa. My job in China did allow teachers to sign one-semester contracts, but I think that’s kind of rare. And, honestly, a year goes by MUCH faster than you’d think — especially with all the vacation time you get as a teacher. I only signed up for the one-semester contract in China, and then ended up staying a year and a half because I found 5 months was too short of a time to really get around China.
      Another option for you to look into would be to teach at an international school overseas since you have your certification. Although, a warning: those jobs are SUPER cushy. I know people who have been teaching in the same international school for 10 years because the gig is so good.
      If you are dead-set on only sticking around for a few months, probably your best bet would be to do some volunteer teaching. You may even be able to find a place that provides accommodation or a stipend. I volunteer taught in Thailand for 3 months, and they gave me a small living stipend. It definitely didn’t cover all my expenses, but it was better than nothing!
      Another option might be to work at a summer ESL camp. Those are pretty popular in Taiwan, Korea & China, and usually require you only work for 1-2 months.
      I can’t say I have any website suggestions — most of the people I know who are teaching ESL and blogging about it are doing so in Korea, Japan or China and are on one-year or longer contracts. I know. We’re such a bunch of law-abiding world citizens!

  2. On March 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm Tyler said:

    Hi Sally! I just wanted to give you a little info on TEFL Certificate (since, you know, I’ve been teaching online courses for it). From what I have experienced, getting the TEFL requires having completed a class (online or in person) and 20 practicum hours. Also, at least for the school I’m working for, it includes job searching assistance. It is a fairly easy, and not too expensive, hoop to jump through. It is good because it covers ESL teaching theory and methods and Second Language Acquisition… and general lesson planning for language teaching for those who have never taught. Also, it provides future teachers with a bunch of good resources to refer to if they encounter any problems while teaching (you know, like, what part of speech IS “any”???!?!?).
    As for where to get it, there are a bunch of companies that offer TEFL Certificates or the other popular one, CELTA, and I would just do my research on them. Find out if they are accredited by a recognized organization, for example.

    • On March 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm Sally said:

      Thanks, Tyler, for all the info! Definitely helpful! I do definitely think it’s a good idea to get some kind of TEFL Certification if you have the time and can afford it. Teaching ESL is so much more competitive now than when I first started out. So any bit of training helps!

  3. On March 10, 2013 at 6:47 pm Marta said:

    I truly can’t stand all these people, who divide jobs into ‘real’ and ‘not real’. Seriously, teachng is one of the most beautiful jobs ever. Even if you are ‘just’ unqualified volunteer somewhere in Asia. It. Still. Is. A. Job. Much better than being a lawyer/doctor/senator/banker, who hates his job and doesn’t even have a time to see his kids growing up. My best job ever was being a part-time receptionist in a hostel. I am still coming back to that place and sometimes I work for free, because it was AWESOME.
    Marta recently posted..Nine: done! (part two)

    • On March 10, 2013 at 9:09 pm Sally said:

      One of my favorite jobs was working at Starbucks. I worked there part-time while I was going to grad school and loved it. I worked with tons of cool people. I got health insurance. And it was one of the only jobs where I could go home and truly leave my work at work — well, other than the smell of coffee. I brought that with me everywhere!

  4. On March 10, 2013 at 7:28 pm Priya said:

    I just posted a comment and i dont think it went through. If you see two comments, ignore one of them. Anyway, I love this post! Thanks for sharing all this awesome Info! If I’ve lost my college degree, do I need to figure out how to order a new one so I can show proof?
    Priya recently posted..The Girl Who Always Meets But Never Plans

    • On March 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm Sally said:

      It always depends on the school or the country you’re applying to work in, but, usually, I’ve just been required to submit an official transcript (you should be able to order these online from your university for a few bucks). In China, they did ask for my diploma, but they settled for a copy as I wasn’t comfortable bringing my diploma with me. I’ve heard other places requiring you to have a verified diploma, which requires you sending it to the State Department. So, again, all depends on the situation.

      • On March 18, 2013 at 4:40 am Jennifer said:

        My fiance and I are considering doing the TESL thing. The biggest snag is we have associate degrees, not Bachelors.Is this enough to get jobs in decent countries?We dont need to live in the ritz, but we wanna live somewhat comfortably. Any insight you could give would be very helpful……Thanx

        • On March 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm Sally said:

          Probably your best bet is to look for jobs in SE Asia or Latin America, where the visa restrictions are a bit more lenient.
          I’d also really suggest trying to get a TEFL Certification beforehand if possible. I know a few people who have an Associate’s (or nothing at all) and a TEFL Cert and have managed to get good jobs. Another good benefit of going through a TEFL Certification program, the programs will usually help you find a job. I met some people who did a program in Thailand, and then were set up with jobs afterwards.
          I’d also suggest trying to get a little bit of teaching experience to help oomph up your resume if you don’t have some already. Maybe volunteer with a local literacy organization (Literacy Volunteers of America is a great one if you’re in the States) or a local school. Good luck!

  5. On March 10, 2013 at 8:51 pm Jessica said:

    I just finished up a year teaching in Thailand, and now I’m starting a year in Japan – so I’m a big fan of teaching. As far as getting scammed goes, I would add that if a company is a little too eager to hire you without asking any questions, that’s a pretty good indicator of a sketchy-scammy school. I had a few Skype interviews that went something like:
    “When can you start!!!?”

    Bad sign.
    Jessica recently posted..Sunday Snapshot: The First Bite

    • On March 10, 2013 at 9:05 pm Sally said:

      Ha, ha! Agreed! I once interviewed with a place, and it totally felt like they were trying to sell me a used car. “What can we do to get you in this job TODAY?” The job actually didn’t seem that bad and was in a country I really wanted to go to, but I was so worried that he was so anxious to get me in the job that I turned them down.

  6. On March 10, 2013 at 10:37 pm memographer said:

    Great post. Thanks for the info.
    One of the visitors of my blog has left this comment, so I “retweet”:

    You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.
    – Winston Churchill
    memographer recently posted..The Streets of Berlin

  7. On March 11, 2013 at 12:41 am Jessica Hill said:

    You do so well with humorous and informative answers! To add to both the visa question and the scam question, I would say that if you find a job ahead of time and they prepare your visa/work permit for you, it’s probably a pretty legit deal. The school isn’t going to put money out unless they are serious about you coming, and it saves you both the hassle and the money it would cost if you showed up on a tourist visa uninvited!

    • On March 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm Sally said:

      Good point. I think I’d be very wary of any company that tells you just to show up on a tourist visa. Chances are if they’re going through all the trouble to get your visa, they’re going to have a job for you when you get there.

  8. On March 11, 2013 at 7:45 am Kristin of Be My Travel Muse said:

    I used to “teach English” via sitting across from people like doctors and businessmen in Taiwan for $20 per hour under the table. THAT WAS AWESOME.
    Kristin of Be My Travel Muse recently posted..Photoblog: Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens

  9. On March 11, 2013 at 3:42 pm Ceri said:

    Haha, I’m guilty for sending you an ESL question about Japan and I do have to say that your email reply was fab, hun, so thank you for responding so quickly. It was really helpful. 😉

    I was going to write a similar post about teaching ESL on my blog too because I seem to get an abundance of questions sent to me. Now I’m just going to redirect them here. Hahaha.
    Ceri recently posted..My Mexicanisms

  10. On March 12, 2013 at 5:06 am The Guy said:

    Thanks for another great article. You’ve answered a lot of questions for me there, even many which I didn’t even know I wanted to ask.

    Glad it worked out well for you and I can’t wait to hear about the Unicorns!
    The Guy recently posted..The Brilliance Of Bribie Island

  11. On March 14, 2013 at 10:17 am cosmoHallitan said:

    I know several people who taught in tiny Japanese villages with the JET Programme and enjoyed it. Most stayed for two or three years, and one stayed on to work in the local office for two years after the teaching contract ended. That person went on to work in the foreign exchange department of an American university in Japan. Another person learned to speak fluent Japanese and got a job at a local tech company. Options abound!
    cosmoHallitan recently posted..Finding Beauty in Phnom Penh

    • On March 14, 2013 at 6:06 pm Sally said:

      I really did enjoy my time on JET. I just, honestly, think I was way too young and inexperienced to realize what a privilege it was. And to realize that I didn’t need to be in such a hurry. But for some reason I just felt I need to get home to start my “real life” already.
      After I came home and ended up working two “real jobs” just to pay my rent, I certainly regretted my decision to leave after only a year!

  12. On March 14, 2013 at 11:45 am Scott Beckmsn said:

    Great post! The only thing I want to add is that college degrees aren’t often required for jobs in South/Central America so good news (if you don’t happen to have a college degree); focus your job hunt on Latin America! If you reeeeaaaalllly want to go to Asia instead (but not enough to get a degree to do it), Cambodian employers don’t often require degrees either. Good luck!

    • On March 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm Sally said:

      Thanks for the info on South/Central America. My only experience in that area has been with Brazil, and they did require an undergraduate degree — but that could have just been the program I applied to.

      • On May 3, 2014 at 1:33 pm Becky said:

        My sketchy Brazilian teaching gig “required” an undergraduate degree as well, but the school just took my word for it (no proof needed; no work visa either…). I also got the salesman kind of pitch when applying. It sent up all kinds of red flags, and surprise, the school and its management is pretty bad. But it’s something to do while my husband works on his postdoc for a few years. If I were in it for the money, I’d be teaching online.

        Many other schools in our area in Brazil, even franchised schools, don’t seem to be bothered about the legal paperwork either. That’s been my impression here. I can’t speak for other Latin American countries.

        • On May 7, 2014 at 8:52 pm Sally said:

          Yeah, that definitely seemed to be the case in Brazil at the English school where I worked, too. In fact, a few months after I left, I heard the director and some of the other administrative staff at my school had been embezzling funds. Talk about sketchy!

  13. On March 16, 2013 at 12:33 am Val Hamer said:

    Too funny but I always risk screen cleans when I read your stuff Sally. (You’re the only one I sacrifice my laptop for!)

    BTW – for any other Brits reading, our 3 year degrees work just as well as the the 4 year type! (In Korea you may come across ads just stating 4.)

  14. On March 18, 2013 at 7:13 am Yeity said:

    If the ESL thingie doesn’t work out for you reckon you would make a pretty awesome unicorn groomer.

  15. On March 18, 2013 at 9:36 am cynthia said:

    nice post…. i would like to add however that my boyfriend who is college degree-less but has a TEFL certification and experience was able to get a teaching job here in the czech republic. it can be done! sometimes the experience is more important than the degree.
    cynthia recently posted..still winter

    • On March 18, 2013 at 4:57 pm Sally said:

      Yes, it totally is dependent on the country you’re in — and even then requirements seem to vary school to school. Most of my experience is in East Asia, where education is highly valued — often more so than experience. So many countries like Japan and Korea won’t even give you a working permit without proof of a degree. Although China can be a bit more lenient, and I’ve heard the same thing goes for SE Asia.

  16. On March 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm Alex said:

    Love the post!
    I’m already teaching TEFL – but can totally relate to the trusting your gut feelings about a company (if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. From experience) and also number 8. Sometimes, it really is the bestjobintheworld; other days, I want to go home, cry, quit and never teach again!
    I guess just like anything else in the world!

    • On March 25, 2013 at 6:20 pm Sally said:

      Yep! I’ve taught in South America, Asia & the States, and it’s pretty much the same everywhere I teach. Some days are AMAZING. And some days I’m like OMIGOD WHY ME?

  17. On April 10, 2013 at 10:49 am Natalia | Always Trekking said:

    I just stumbled upon your blog today (I know, I know! Where have I been? A cave? Probably.)

    Your website is wonderful and I loved this article. I came back from Korea last October and found a “real job”, but my job in Korea was also a job. I completely agree with you.

    My dream is to teach in Brazil and I can’t believe you did! How did you come across the opportunity?
    Natalia | Always Trekking recently posted..Icy Weekend Skiing in Jay Peak – Vermont, US

    • On April 11, 2013 at 8:03 am Sally said:

      I think I just found it on ESL Cafe. I wouldn’t really suggest the the program I did — it was called an “internship” program. Which meant I taught as much as the full-time teachers, but got paid a lot less. There was also absolutely NO support. And the place I worked for was totally sketchy. In fact, a few months after I left I found out the manager & one of the secretaries was arrested for siphoning off funds. Good times!
      Brazil jobs do seem pretty hard to find as they are hardly ever advertised internationally — but that may change with everything that’s going on in Brazil right now.

      • On April 11, 2013 at 8:46 am Natalia | Always Trekking said:

        That sounds super sketchy. I’m sure it was a great experience regardless. I had a business professor in university from Brazil who said that the only true definition of corruption is meeting a man with a suitcase full of money in a dark alleyway in the night.

        How did you find teaching in China?
        Natalia | Always Trekking recently posted..Icy Weekend Skiing in Jay Peak – Vermont, US

        • On April 14, 2013 at 8:17 pm Sally said:

          There were definitely pros and cons to teaching in China. I taught at a private university, where the students weren’t that eager to learn or go to class which I didn’t like. But the teachers had a surprising amount of autonomy which I liked.
          But I’ve talked to other people who have taught elsewhere and they’ve had totally different experiences. It all just depends on where you work. Each situation is so different!

  18. On August 2, 2013 at 9:26 am Gracie G said:

    This is wonderful.
    Thank you times a million.

  19. On September 14, 2013 at 1:25 am Wajiha said:


    Ofc you have heard that ” I love your blog”

    but I seriously do. I feel like myself writing all this 😛 No kidding.

    So I am getting my TEFL from http://www.teflonline.com/

    coz there are no certain degrees in Pakistan or places where I can actually get a TEFL or TESOL certificate.
    So then I will be looking for a job.

    I really want to get out from where I am right now and would love if this happens.

    Wish me Luck and hey Thanx

    Love ya

  20. On February 10, 2014 at 7:28 pm Jenny R. said:

    hey sally 😀

    This is probably one of the BEST blogs that I’ve read regarding ESL teaching. I still have my senior year to finish in high school but now I know for a fact that this has inspired me to teach ESL for a living. Thanks so much for writing this <3

    • On February 12, 2014 at 7:08 pm Sally said:

      Thanks, Jenny. Glad you enjoyed it! Feel free to ask me any questions you might have. (And, PS, I’m kind of freaking out that I just helped you decide your career. Umm, ME? Are you sure about that?? Please don’t tell anyone it was me, okay?)

  21. On January 28, 2015 at 11:19 am Hasanur said:

    Hi Sally

    I was looking for ESL teacher for my younger sister and found your blog. OMG what a nice and interesting writing. I totally enjoyed that. you are super funny and with that you can achieve anyone trust.

    The Scam part took my notice. you maybe safe in European countries but some asian and african countries could be unsafe for single woman. I live in malaysia and i am sorry to say that. its better to be careful.

    also now a days people get jobs as esl teacher in skype. Just like out sourcing jobs. it will be safe for any one plus you can do that at home. you can teach ASL via Skype too. And some small kid like my sister can a get a nice funny teacher like you. i hope all your student enjoy spending time with you

    • On February 1, 2015 at 10:54 am Sally said:

      Hi Hasanur,
      I’m glad you enjoyed my post. As for scams, as I mentioned in my post, I have worked overseas extensively (and not in any “safe” European countries) and never had a problem with someone attempting to scam me. I’m not saying scams don’t exist, but I think the stories of scams are much more rampant than the actual scams. I would definitely never deter any single woman from pursuing a job overseas because of scams, but I would encourage her (and, well, EVERYONE) to do some research beforehand.

  22. On March 22, 2015 at 9:58 pm Sarah C said:

    Helllo! You’re wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to post, it’s super helpful! Would you mind telling me a bit about the “real” job business and how to you transitioned into a DC non-profit after year one of JET?

    Also, how do you get over the “talking to a wall” feeling of teaching Englsh to non-native folks? Or maybe I’m just doing it wrong. :l

    • On March 28, 2015 at 12:02 pm Sally said:

      Hi Sarah,
      So glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog! As for transitioning between teaching overseas and “real jobs” back home, I’ve done that twice (after my year in JET and after my year teaching in Brazil) and I’ve honestly never had a problem. This could be because the 2 non-teaching jobs that I’ve had were both still in the education field — after JET I worked as an admin assistant in the education program of a museum/theater in DC and after Brazil I ran an education program at a musical theater in Buffalo. But I think also just having the overseas experience on my resume really helped me stand out — the people interviewing me were really impressed that I’d been overseas and I think this helped them remember me over the other candidates (and there were a LOT of other candidates with a lot more non-profit and theater experience than me — especially for the Buffalo job). So I really wouldn’t worry about your teaching ESL overseas for a year or more hurting your job prospects once you get home — I think it can really only help it!
      As for the “talking to a wall” feeling, I’ve definitely felt more than my fair-share of that. Especially when I was teaching overseas, as my students tended to be much lower level than the students I teach now. I found one good way to decrease that feeling is to really decrease the “teacher-talk” time and increase the “student-talk” time. This can be done pretty easily with pair/group activities like discussion groups or impromptu speaking or role playing. For higher level classes (or for students who are just a lot more confident), I’ve even had students lead the class for short periods. For example, if we’re working on a specific writing point, I’ll have a student or two come up to the front of the class and show what they’ve written and have the rest of the class discuss it and give feedback. This has worked really well especially for students who really like the limelight.
      Best of luck!

  23. On October 3, 2016 at 10:00 pm Teaching English said:

    Actually, if you apply as an ESL teacher, the company you’re applying at has the list of must-do’s, must-haves, and must-have attained.

    • On November 12, 2016 at 11:53 am Sally said:

      I never had that experience, really. Other than just telling me what legal documents I needed. So probably just depends on the company/school where you’re working.

  24. On January 25, 2017 at 12:55 pm Tony F. said:

    For sure need a degree! Lots of people ask me that too, but there’s kind of no way around it.
    Tony F. recently posted..Top 10 Blog Posts on ESL Speaking


  1. Workers of the World #9 | The Working Traveller
  2. What We’re Reading: World’s Worst Tourism Slogans | Best in Travel News
  3. Girls That Go: An Interview with Sally of Unbrave Girl - Pocketholiday
  4. Girls That Go: An Interview with Sally from Unbrave Girl

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge